As the Ruin Falls
C. S. Lewis
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love—a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek—
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.
I have been guilty many, many times to reacting (mostly silently) when I hear people utter, in the face of devastation, Why would God allow this to happen?
Or those inevitable words: God doesn’t want this to happen.
I have to admit that I have felt somewhat smug in my internal response to these cries. Not that I didn’t sympathize. Or feel compassion at the sorrow.
It’s just that I felt I could see over the top of the tragedy. I thought I could see the design there.
Life. Maintenance. Death.
An ever-running circle from the cradle to the grave. And the shroud of seeming indifference to the methods by which each stage is achieved.
What did it matter, except to the person, if someone died from cancer or from a car accident? Just as it didn’t matter whether someone was born face up or butt-first.
Except to the bearing mother.
The concepts were absolute, after all.
Life. Maintenance. Death.
We are born. We live as best we can. And we die.
Stop trying to editorialize it, I would think. Stop trying to make it into something that reflects our values. And not the values of The Universe.
Stupidity can be amusing. Or crushing, when the light of truth is shone on it.
For most of my adult life I have had a low-level muttering going on in my relationship with God. If only, it went.
Not like other peoples’ mutterings. Oh, no.
If only you had a central nervous system, I grumbled. If only you had nerves.
It wasn’t the cycle of life I complained of. Or the shocking points on it.
It was the seeming disorder of it all. The sloppiness of life I objected to.
The walking through shards of glass, when a swept walk would make a more efficient route.
You just don’t get it, I would repeatedly sigh to God.
I didn’t object to the events of life, per se, but, it seems, I did object to the way life didn’t reflect my demand for order. Spiritual order.
If God is love, then why this mess? Why this disorder?
A kitchen should be kept neat. A bathroom scrubbed on a regular basis. Sheets changed.
Should not our relationship with God be so kept?
Life on Earth is life on Earth. Messy, complicated, and, at times, painful. The process of death can be even worse.
But, in spite of all that, shouldn’t our relationship with God be one of order? And shouldn’t that order create a stability that will infuse our lives? Bind it.
Shouldn’t we find in the absolute nature of God an absolute experience of love?
No, Julia. Apparently not.
My projections on God of the way my relationship with God should work were just as weak-minded as someone declaring that a person died against God’s will.
Over these past weeks, I have had repeated experiences of putting my hands down into the shards of the devastation of my life and watching as I was impaled by the thorns of it all. I would watch as blood dripped down my arms. Down my body.
As Jesus bled.
For me, it was always the other way around.
Jesus bled as we bleed. Because we bleed. He took on our pain.
And, yet, there I was sitting, realizing that I bled as Jesus bled. That you bleed as Jesus bled.
That Jesus did not come to stop our bleeding. Or to clean up the process. Make it neat and clean.
I always wanted that to be so.
He bled as we bleed.
He put his body down into the shards of the devastation that was his life, and he bled.
How could there not be perfect order in it all?
Where is the design in such disarray?
If Jesus does not bring divine form into the mess, who does?
And so, I was instructed by God, this is the look of my love.
I had to lift my head and look away.
There has to be design, my heart cried.
There has to be.
Not just cutting and blood and stiffness and neglect.
That is the design, I am told.
And so, in spite of myself, I had to look back. I had to look at the mess. The battlefield of our hearts. Strewn parts. Broken.
And in the imperfection of the expression of God’s love, I could see the glimmer.
A bit of brightness.
A touch of beauty.
But just a touch.
It will take quite a while, I think, for my heart to acknowledge chaos.
For my heart to give up its infinite attachment to order.